The breakdown of biological tissue during mammalian decomposition results in the production of both gases and liquids. The majority of these gases are inorganic of nature, e.g. CO2 and NH3, however a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also present. These volatile substances are intermediate products of decomposition produced when large macro-molecules such as proteins, are broken down. Victim recovery dogs can be trained to detect this unique mixture of volatiles to allow their use in victim recovery. Currently there exists no standardised method of police dog training across the UK, with different police forces implementing diverse training techniques using a variety of sample types. With the current lack of scientific basis to the training and a deficiency in funding, the effectiveness of police dogs has been met with criticism. The University of Leicester is currently applying a variety of analytical techniques to identify and quantify the volatile profile of decomposition in real life scenarios.
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Dr Jonathon Brooks, University of Leicester